Syria activists: Strikes kill at least 20 near Islamic State stronghold

Posted March 13, 2017

He was referring to the major remaining bastions of the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq, now being retaken by the Iraqi army with USA support, and in Raqqa, Syria, which has become the focus of planning for a us -backed offensive to drive Islamic State off of its remaining territory in both countries.

The decision to deploy artillery mimics the approach taken in Mosul, Iraq, where USA and French artillery have been supporting the Iraqi offensive to take the western half of the city.

She says troops from the US -led coalition have increased in numbers and are taking a bigger part in the battle for Raqqa.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, another activist group, said the strikes occurred before dawn Tuesday and left 14 civilians dead, including six children and four women.

In an interview with China's Phoenix TV, President Bashar al-Assad stated that Damascus did not approve of any deployment of US forces in Manbij.

In addition to the Marines, the USA has also reportedly recently sent a team of Army Rangers to help prepare for the Raqqa fight.

Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, also said that more U.S. troops - over and above the 8,500 now in Afghanistan - are needed to assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in regaining territory lost to the Taliban. The battery's M777 howitzers are capable of hitting targets up to 20 miles away.

The deployment of the U.S. soldiers is part of a new plan put forward by the Pentagon recently under the order of U.S. President Donald Trump, who pledged to expand the fight against the militants in Syria, Iraq and beyond, during his presidential campaign.

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Turkish Armed Forces said on Friday it killed at least 71 YPG militants in northern Syria over the past week.

The SDF also said that IS started moving top commanders out of Raqqa, in apparent anticipation of tough confrontation and possibly the city falling out of the IS control.

Coalition spokesman U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian has told Reuters that the operation to isolate Raqqa "could be completed in a few weeks".

Additional concern over the use of the SDF forces comes from the 200,000 residents inside Raqqa - mostly Sunni Arabs who fear that a victory for the Kurdish group could lead to forced displacement from their homes.

In August 2016, Turkey began a major military intervention in Syria, dubbed "Euphrates Shield", sending tanks and warplanes across the border. The group's leaders are also reportedly fleeing the city in anticipation of the advance, relocating to the relative safety of ISIS-occupied Deir al-Zour province.

"Manbij is liberated, and there's no need for further fighting there", Davis said.

Over the weekend, a separate force of elite USA army Rangers was also deployed near a town north-west of Raqqa in heavily armoured vehicles, in an attempt to end clashes between SDF fighters and a Turkish-backed rebel force.

ISIS is getting hit from all sides, with Russian-backed Syrian military forces also bearing down on the caliphate's capital city. As the Marines were arriving, the US 75 US Ranger regiment carried out a very visible maneuver, driving around the outskirts of a town called Manbij flying the Stars and Stripes in a show of force to warn off Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies.